Story by Tom Lagana
Even though my parents were married for well over fifty years, I still felt that they stayed together “for the sake of the children.” In this case, I was the only child and fifty-ish at that! My parents were both active and healthy, well into their eighties. At eighty-five years old, Dad suffered a stroke. While he was recovering in the hospital, I saw my parents’ love shine through like never before. I watched Dad reach his hand out for Mom to hold. I noticed as he firmly pulled her toward him for a kiss on the lips. In my lifetime I had never witnessed these outward signs of love by my parents.
Mom, a registered nurse from yesteryear, still had the magic touch of an “angel of mercy.” Within six months, she had Dad walking with a cane and back to taking the bus to the Senior Center to play cards and dance! Of course, Dad didn’t play cards or dance quite the same as before, but he still gave it all he had.
Gradually, Dad’s health failed and soon after his eighty-eighth birthday he was hospitalized. During the next four months, he spent only a few days at home, in between visits to the hospital and nursing homes. The doctors never found out exactly what the problem was, but we knew. His time here with us was running out.
Mom would visit Dad faithfully every day, and sometimes even twice a day. Of course, being from the old school, she made sure he had the cleanest laundry and the tastiest treats. While I was at work, Mom took the bus to the hospital to see him in the afternoon. She made certain the doctors, nurses and staff gave him the finest care. Each day he would reach out to hold Mom’s hand and kiss her lips.
Dad was again admitted to the hospital one month before their sixtieth wedding anniversary. His health continued to fail, and we all knew his time with us would soon be over, even before the doctors told us. Two days before their wedding anniversary, I took the rare opportunity to have a private visit with Dad, on my way home from work. He wasn’t conscious, but he held my hand firmly. We had the best talk of our lives, although I did all the talking. I reminded him that his sixtieth wedding anniversary was the next day, and assured him that it was okay with us if he wanted to miss this one. I thanked him for everything he had done for me as my dad. I also asked him to forgive me for my short comings, as I forgave him his. The salty tears rolled freely down my face as I spoke. Finally I said, “I know that we both did our best, Dad.” Then I just sat quietly in the chair for a few moments, watching him “sleep.” As I prepared to leave, I took his thin, frail hand in mine and whispered, “I love you, Dad.” His trembling hand responded in acknowledgment.
The next day, Mom and I brought anniversary cards and flowers to share with Dad. That evening Mom and I went out for a simple, but special anniversary dinner with my wife. The three of us sat at a table for four — the fourth place symbolizing Dad’s loving presence. When Mom and I arrived at the hospital the following afternoon, Dad’s nurse stopped us in the hallway. He stood quietly in front of the door and reached out his hand, placing it on my shoulder. There was no need for words. We knew Dad was gone. Mom held Dad’s hand and gave him one last kiss, as their love shined through.